February 5, 2024
5 minute read

Crocker Art Museum Director and CEO Lial A. Jones to Retire at the End of 2024

Crocker Art Museum Director and CEO Lial A. Jones.

Sacramento, Ca., February 5, 2024Lial A. Jones, the Crocker Art Museum’s Mort and Marcy Friedman Director & CEO, announced she will retire at the end of 2024 after 25 years at the Museum. Jones joined the Crocker in 1999 and has been the driving force in the Museums' rise as the leading cultural institution in California’s Capital Region. A past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, Jones is widely recognized as a leader in the field with a 50-year career of innovation and excellence at multiple institutions. During her tenure, Jones transformed the Crocker Art Museum from a regional gem into a nationally and internationally recognized institution, revolutionizing all areas of the Museum’s operations and establishing a driving vision that the exhibitions, artwork, and programs presented by the Crocker should reflect the diverse community the Museum serves.  

“In her years with the Crocker, Lial has undoubtedly changed the landscape of arts and culture in Sacramento,” notes Garry Maisel, Crocker Art Museum Association Board President and President & CEO of Western Health Advantage. “Her commitment to increasing access to and appreciation of the arts, and her ability to rally resources for the Museum for the benefit of the community, has shaped the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in our region. We thank her for her many, dedicated years of service and stewardship.”  

Under Jones’ leadership, the Museum experienced an unparalleled period of expansion and growth including increases in the size of the collection, attendance, membership, and endowment. Key to this growth and success was Jones’ early effort to modernize the Crocker’s governance structure and bylaws. In addition to leading the Museum staff and board of directors through multiple strategic and long-range planning cycles, Jones’ guidance was integral in maintaining the Museum’s accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums. The Crocker remains the only accredited museum in the wider Sacramento region.    

When Jones arrived in Sacramento, the Crocker’s physical space totaled only 50,000 square feet. Jones led a widely successful capital campaign raising over $125 million to construct the Teel Family Pavillion, a 125,000 square-foot addition that tripled the size of the Crocker, improved operations, and revolutionized the Museum’s ability to serve visitors through programming and access to the collection.  

Under Jones’ direction, the Crocker’s curatorial program has become a powerhouse, often rotating over a dozen exhibitions each year. These include major artists and collections of a caliber never before seen in the region and original shows that highlight significant acquisitions and collection areas and showcase the Crocker’s deep relationships with collectors and institutions.  

Jones is also responsible for the Crocker’s renewed focus on acquisition, reviving a nearly dormant program into one that has resulted in over 23,000 objects added to the collection over the course of her tenure. The Crocker is now renowned for its collections of California art and international ceramics, areas Jones identified and championed, and has successfully and strategically grown. In fact, all of the Museum’s collections areas have grown during her tenure.  

Among the major initiatives Jones championed at the Crocker is the extraordinary expansion of educational and public programming. Prior to Jones’ hire, the Museum hosted fewer than 50 programs each year, primarily focused on music and lacking a centralized connection to the exhibitions and collections on view. Jones set a vision in which programming became central to the Crocker’s value to the community and allowed the Museum to serve individuals of all ages and backgrounds. From the All About Families initiative that launched comprehensive Kids + Family programming for infants through teens, to the Museum’s monthly ArtMix evening extravaganzas that draw thousands of adult art lovers, to high caliber lectures and conversations with world class artists including Judy Chicago, Richard Mayhew, Alison Saar, Wayne Thiebaud, and Kara Walker, the Crocker sets the standard for community engagement in the region and is recognized as a leader of innovative public programming emulated by many in the museum field. Today the Crocker serves tens of thousands of program attendees through over 300 public programs and tours each year.  

All of these efforts have resulted in phenomenal change in public perception and increased the community’s sense of belonging at the Crocker. Under Jones' guidance, annual attendance has more than doubled, over 10,000 new members have been welcomed, and the Museum has strengthened relationships with donors, sponsors, community partners, and visitors. Public access initiatives including Pay What You Wish, which offers free admission on the third Sunday of each month thanks to sponsorship from Western Health Advantage, and the Free Family Pass program, which allows each student engaged by the Museum (onsite or in-school) to visit again with their family, provide ample opportunity for all to benefit from the curatorial and programming enhancements Jones has brought about at the Crocker.  

“When I took this position, the Museum did not reflect the vibrancy of our region and our State,” Jones remarks. “I count myself lucky to have led the Crocker for so long and—in partnership with many talented people on staff, Boards, and in the community—to have established the Museum as an essential cultural center in service of the people. I feel confident that the Museum is poised to continue its growth and will attract an exceptional next director.”  

The Crocker Art Museum Association Board of Directors will form a committee to begin the search for a new director. Jones will continue to lead the Museum through the end of the year. She is looking forward to a well-deserved rest before taking on some long-delayed personal projects.